yours, tiramisu

new car day

I picked up my Tesla today! As a self-professed car hater (I live by the question "what would Jane Jacobs do?"), it feels heretical for me to say this, but... it's a wicked neat tool. It feels like a toy. There's a saying about how any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic, and to me this car is sorcery, from how it knows I'm in or right outside it, to how I don't need to lock/unlock/start the car, and the way just about everything in it is automated. I know Bluetooth, rearview cameras, and blind spot alarms aren't exactly cutting edge, but after driving cars almost as old as I am all my life, I can't imagine what more you could ask for in a car.1

At the dealership the salespeople kept congratulating me on my new car. I was baffled. Me? What are you congratulating me for, exactly? For cutting you a big check? Nobody congratulated me when I bought my violin or my piano. Is this a uniquely American thing, because the car and the house are the cornerstones of the "American dream"? My mom says I don't understand this because I didn't grow up poor, which is a fair point, but it still feels strange to be congratulated for buying what amounts to a really expensive tool & a rapidly depreciating one at that.

Anyway, back to the car. There are a lot of things I like about it, including a relatively intuitive user interface, adjustable lumbar support (I'm not sure why I was so excited to discover this), and of course not having to go get gas anymore. I don't care much for the fun easter eggs in the car like light shows or karaoke. But I thoroughly enjoy the little details they thought of, like how my music seamlessly switches from playing on my phone to the car speakers when I get in or how the car can save your personal preferences and adjust accordingly based on who's in the driver seat. These gems are what make the user experience for me.

Something that worries me about this car is how much its operation depends on having your smartphone. After I had my wallet stolen a few years ago, losing my phone doesn't feel like such a stretch. And I don't even want to think about how big of a headache that would be with this car, not to mention all the critical things that also depend on two-factor authentication these days.

Even if nothing happens to my phone, I'm not a huge fan of cars going subscription-based. I know this isn't anything new (see: BMW, Toyota), but I don't want to live in a world in which carmakers have the power to charge us monthly to use devices we've already paid for. Most of our generation won't ever be able to buy a house. When this is all said and done, will we own anything? Or will big corporations charge us to live from the cradle to the grave?

If you can't tell, I suffer from a severe case of subscription fatigue. After Spotify hiked its prices again, I even considered getting rid of that, even though I spend more than fifty thousand hours a year listening to music. It just feels wrong that after the hundreds of dollars I've sunk into it over the years, if I canceled my subscription I'd end up with nothing. Zilch. Nada.

Also, as a bit of a privacy nut, Tesla already has enough data about me to give me nightmares. I've hardly owned this car for eight hours and Tesla already possesses a picture of my driver's license, my full home address, my location pretty much at all times, and my credit card (you have to add a working one to even apply to buy the car). What is Tesla doing to make sure my information doesn't get sold or stolen?2

Quibbles with the car aside, another thing I'll have to get over is my tendency to shy away from using my Shiny New Things. This habit of babying things serves me well sometimes; I take really good care of my possessions and rarely break or lose things (though that kind of hasn't applied to cars). This one will be my toughest test yet, considering it's the first brand new car I've ever driven (and that we paid full price for it!). Maybe being protective of a car is good to an extent, but when I get anxiety taking it out over fear of scratching or denting it, is that still healthy?

  1. Except full self-driving. But not the fake shit masquerading as autopilot that Tesla advertises.

  2. Unfortunately, it seems like the answer to that question is not a lot.

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